Working together to solve sustainable agriculture challenges

23 May 2014

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research (BBSRC) today launch an initiative to support research and research translation projects that aim to provide solutions to the key challenges affecting the sustainability of the UK crop and livestock sectors.

The Sustainable Agriculture Research & Innovation Club (SARIC) will be investing £10m over the next five years to address key challenges to these sectors.

A rapidly increasing global population, climate change and the fight for dwindling resources are putting global food security at increasing threat.

SARIC will bring together the environmental and biological science research base with industry, exploiting knowledge to progress towards more sustainable agricultural systems for the future.

Through consultation with a diverse range of industries, trade associations, levy boards, policymakers and academia, key areas such as water and nutrient related challenges were identified as areas to focus on.

Specifically SARIC will look be launching funding calls for the following programmes:

  • Resilient and robust crop and livestock production systems
  • Predictive capability & modelling for new technologies, tools, products & services

Having informed and helped to define the challenges for SARIC, the club's industry members will continue to steer the programme and participate in funding discussions.

A common understanding of the challenges facing this sector and its supply chains will help build capacity within the research base to deliver business-relevant solutions.

Professor Iain Gillespie, NERC Director of Science, said:

This innovative partnership will address one of the key challenges facing our society; how we are going to feed a growing population in a time of rapid environmental change. By working in partnership with businesses and other research councils, we can bring a range of perspectives to bear on these issues, and ensure that the excellent UK research base is translated into tangible benefits for society.

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director of Innovation & Skills, said:

We are delighted to be collaborating with NERC and the partner companies to support research in the important area of sustainable livestock and crop production. It is particularly pleasing that we have companies joining SARIC that have not been involved in a Research and Innovation Club before. These clubs are an excellent route to companies engaging with our excellent research base, encouraging partnership in addressing some of the major challenges that the world faces.

£10m of funding will be made available through two calls, the first of which opens today. Approximately £5m of funding will be available at this stage for both research grants (£3.5m) and research translation (£1.5m).

Further information

NERC media office
01793 411561
07917 557215


1. For more information on either of the first two calls visit the SARIC page.

2. BBSRC and NERC are key contributors to the UK Global Food Security partnership programme. More information is on the Global Food Security Programme website - external link.

3. For NERC, BBSRC and the UK academic community, SARIC will help provide an awareness of the needs of this sector to inform and help shape the research translation needs in these key areas. Businesses signing MoUs with NERC and BBSRC as part of the club benefit from early access to research.
Following initial consultation, a total of 11 companies have joined the research and innovation club:

  • Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board
  • Anglian Water
  • Barworth Agriculture Ltd
  • Bayer Crop Science
  • Dwr Cymru Welsh Water
  • Elsoms Seeds
  • Marks and Spencers
  • Monsanto
  • Processors and Growers Research Organisation
  • Syngenta
  • URSULA Agriculture

4. A panel made up of NERC and BBSRC academics and industry members will make decisions on which projects will be funded. Companies will be able to choose whether or not to participate on the panel depending on whether the funding call is relevant. For more information on how SARIC operates please visit the SARIC webpage.

Press release: 13/14